Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

See other formats


GENIUS AND POVERTY
Immediately following this he expresses his gratitude for his
treatment in Berlin. 'It is true that few persons are interested
in me, but these few are Infinitely dear to me, hecause they have
shown me so much kindness. Perhaps I can respond in some
way to their hopes of me, for it must be hard for a benefactor to
see his trouble lost.'
He tells then how Crelle has been begging him to take up his
residence permanently in Berlin. Crelle was already using all his
human engineering skill to hoist the Norwegian Abel into a
professorship in the University of Berlin. Such was the Ger-
many of 1826. Abel of course was already great, and the sure
promise of what he had in him indicated him as the likeliest
mathematical successor to Gauss. That he was a foreigner made
no difference; Berlin in 1826 wanted the best in mathematics.
A century later the best in mathematical physics was not good
enough, and Berlin quite forcibly got rid of Einstein. Thus do
we progress. But to return to the sanguine Abel.
At first I counted on going directly from Berlin to Paris,
happy in the promise that Mr Crelle would accompany me.
But Mr Crelle was prevented, and I shall have to travel
alone. Now I am so constituted that I cannot endure soli-
tude. Alone, I am depressed, I get cantankerous, and I
have little inclination for work. So I said to myself it
would be much better to go with Mr Boeck to Vienna, and
this trip seems to me to be justified by the fact that at
Vienna there are men like Littrow, Burg, and still others,
all indeed excellent mathematicians; add to this that I
shall make but this one voyage in my life. Could one find
anything but reasonableness in this wish of mine to see some-
of the life of the South? I could work assiduously enough
while travelling. Once in Vienna and leaving there for
Paris, it is almost a bee-line via Switzerland. Why shouldn't
I see a little of it too? My God! I, even I, have some taste '
for the beauties of nature, like everybody else. This whole
trip would bring me to Paris two months later, that's all.
I could quickly catch up the time lost. Don't you think
such a trip would do me good?
So Abel went South, leaving his masterpiece in Cauchy's care
to be presented to the Institut. The prolific Cauchy was so busy
351